Review: The Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

Avon Books, 2018


Miracle of miracles. The planets have aligned in my favor, people. Would you believe that on the VERY DAY my sweet six-year-old went back to school the baby decided she’s FINALLY going to take naps in her own bed? Because that happened. Just THINK of all the cleaning I could do if I weren’t going to read a bunch of books and write about them instead!

Portia Hobbs has always been a bit of a mess. Flighty, impulsive, and distracted, she’s never quite measured up to her perfect twin sister nor to the expectations of  her (fancy-schmancy/rich people) parents. But she’s determined to get her shit together once and for all. No more drinking and random hookups to numb her feelings. No more perpetual screw-uptitude. Embarking on “Project: New Portia”, she takes an internship in Scotland as a swordsmith’s apprentice. Random AF? Kinda but, hey, that’s Portia.

Tavish McKenzie, aside from having the Scottiest Scottish name there ever was, is a maker of medieval weaponry and runs an armory outside of Edinburgh. Blunt and impatient, he’s been married before and goes out of his way to avoid annoying things like, you know, feelings and stuff. That is until Portia shows up and drives him completely crazy (in more ways than one *wink, wink*). Oh, and did I mention that it turns out Tavish is a duke? Be still my romance-loving heart.

Serious question though? Is there a there anything more  masculine than a brooding, hulking Scotsman forging hot metal into swords and armor? I certainly can’t think of anything…

Anyway…*fans self*

I should tell you that I have been on a fairly lengthy hiatus from contemporary romance so as I jumped into the Reluctant Royals series I found myself  having to reacquaint myself with contemporary courtship. Hey, you guys did it! She’s ruined! You have to propose now…oh, wait… But this series is SO FUN thus far. A Duke by Default is the second book I’ve read by Alyssa Cole (first was A Princess in Theory) and she definitely has a new fan for life.

First of all this book is hilarious. I laughed out loud so many times. Additionally, Alyssa writes excellent dialogue. I’m kinda neurotic about that. If an author is trying to hard too be cute it can feel unnatural to me and I’ll be sucked right out of the story. And it’s more obvious in contemporary fiction because, well, we have contemporary conversations all the live long day. In my opinion it takes a MASTER to write dialogue well, and Alyssa absolutely does. Something else she does that I LOVED was her incorporation of emojis in text and social media conversations. I mean, I don’t know about you, but there are times when I actually think in emojis these days. It’s pathetic, I know. But I liked it!

I also like that Alyssa takes the time to give her characters significant depth. Portia is a mess, yes, but there’s so much more going on with her beneath the surface. Her journey to accepting and respecting herself is painful but real and very relatable for all of us artsy, disorderly types who feel like we’re always a step behind everyone else.

However, I wouldn’t have minded some more heart-squeezy romance scenes. That’s not a flaw in the book necessarily, just my personal preference. I like a book to make my chest hurt, what can I say? Come on baby make it hurt so good…

You don’t want to miss A Duke by Default. I recommend starting with A Princess in Theory. And after you finish them you can impatiently wait  with me for A Prince on Paper, the next installment in the series. It’s set to release this coming April.

Are you a fan of contemporary royalty romances?